Tour de France News for July 21, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
The maillot jaune changes hands
Armstrong wins stage in Villard-de-Lans
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Lance Armstrong won his 18th Tour de France stage today and put on his
61st maillot jaune after sprinting around Ivan Basso (CSC) and
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) in Villard-de-Lans. The 15th stage was perhaps
the race's most exciting yet, as Ullrich took the bull by the horns with
60 km to go and attacked in an attempt to win the stage and possibly unseat
Armstrong and the other GC favourites. The German partially succeeded
as he moved up three places on the general classification, but he didn't
get his stage victory after the combined might of US Postal and CSC pulled
him back with 25 km to go.
At the finish, Armstrong showed that he was the best man in the race
by launching a powerful sprint with 200m to go to hold of Basso and Ullrich
and take the yellow jersey as well. "To go two for two is great!" said
a delighted Armstrong post-stage. "There's still a part of me that wanted
to ride a legendary mountain like l'Alpe d'Huez in the Yellow Jersey."
Lance talked about the finale post-stage, explaining that "The front
group came back together at the end of the stage so there was the risk
of (losing time via) the time bonuses. Sure, you can sit up and get fourth,
but why give 0'20 to your rivals. So it was important (to win)...Johan
was screaming in my ear that I had to win because of the time bonuses.
At this point, it's a question of having a minute twenty five (on Basso)
so every second counts...sorry, no pun intended...and I have to say there's
something special about winning in the sprints. To win alone it's exciting
and fun but, I don't know, to win in a sprint, to me is much more intense
than being alone."
As for Ullrich, Armstrong commented that, "T-Mobile's attack was really
a team attack with Guerini, Klöden and Ullrich. We weren't very concerned
when Ullrich attacked. With my teammates Landis and Azevedo, and then
Basso's teammates Sastre and Voigt, we knew we could control the situation...For
us, it was not really a threatening situation. Now had I been alone, then
it could have been a different story. But thanks to a strong team, and
Ivan had some guys there, it was not a problem."
Ullrich showed his champion qualities for the first time at this Tour
with a rather enterprising attack, explaining afterwards that he went
on the Col de l'Echarasson because the final climb wasn't hard enough.
"I said before that I was going to give it my maximum at this Tour...when
I attacked, I tried to unnerve Lance. I had to give it my all because
I really wanted to win today. But still, when you have the stage win in
your grasp and it slips, then that's disappointing.
"I've recovered well on the rest day and I'm feeling good. But I found
a really strong team from Postal and Voigt helped too...it's too bad."
15 full results, report & photos
The end of the dream
An interview with Thomas Voeckler
Thomas Voeckler's amazing run in the yellow jersey finally came to
an end in Villard-de-Lans
today, after he could no longer hang on to the furious pace set by US
Postal, CSC and T-Mobile. But young Thomas has a bright future ahead of
him, as Mélanie Leveau writes.
Thomas Voeckler (Brioches)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Thomas Voeckler crosses the line 9'30 behind Lance Armstrong. It is over.
He won't wear the yellow jersey any longer. It is the American who will
climb l'Alpe d'Huez in yellow tomorrow. In the general classification,
Voeckler is now eighth overall, 9'28 back.
Voeckler doesn't look disappointed. He suspected before the start this
morning that his hours were numbered. He knew he was right as soon as
the fight started. He was dropped for the first time on the second category
Col des Limouches but, as a habit, came back on the descent. The next
climb, however, was fatal. He would never see again Armstrong before the
finish line in Villard-de-Lans.
He rode the three kilometres of the final climb alone, first behind
a big peloton, but concluded his day on his teammate Pineau's wheel after
a long sprint to the line.
Voeckler lost his yellow jersey. True. But a new race started for him:
the one for the white jersey that rewards the best young rider. "The yellow
jersey wasn't a real objective. It was more a kind of bonus. But the white
jersey is a goal we can reach with the team: not only me, but Chavanel
and Pineau too," said Voeckler after the finish today.
here for the full interview
Riis defends his tactics
Team CSC director Bjarne Riis came under fire during Stage 15 of the
Tour today when he ordered his team to combine with US Postal to chase
down Jan Ullrich, who had made a surprise attack with 60 km to go on the
Col de l'Echarasson. Ullrich, who was in pursuit of leaders Richard Virenque
and Michael Rasmussen (among others), managed to gain 1'09 on Armstrong's
group at one point and causing a lot of damage to the other GC riders
such as Mancebo, Totschnig and Voeckler. However, when CSC's Jens Voigt
was called back from the front to help out the chase, Ullrich's move was
doomed and he came back with just over 25 km to go.
During the stage, many teams, commentators and fans thought Riis was
playing right into Armstrong's hands, and was only racing for second with
Basso, rather than trying to isolate Armstrong. But in a post-race interview
with Sporza, an annoyed Riis said, "Yeah they have the right to
say that. I don't see why I shouldn't have done it though."
What was the reason then? "Because it was not the moment to let Ullrich
go. There was a group behind with some rivals in it. Ivan [Basso] said
he was strong and would like to win today."
When asked whether it wouldn't have been better for Basso to attack
Armstrong, Riis said, "No way. First of all, we are realistic. Second,
when the possibility is there, we well take it. But not today...I know
what I'm doing. I'm not here to satisfy everyone. I'm here to satisfy
my team and no-one else."
Caucchioli loses time, but keeps GC place
After finishing 18th in today's 15th stage, 2'13 behind Lance Armstrong,
Alessio-Bianchi's top man Pietro Caucchioli kept his 9th place on the
general classification. The Italian's ambitions are for a top 10 finish
in Paris, but he has been sick for several days and is finding it tough.
"I was hindered by an annoying cold," Caucchioli confessed at the finish.
"Anyway, I still hold ninth position in the ranking: at the beginning
of the Tour I aimed at being in the first ten, and at the moment I can
say I've fulfilled my mission."
Caucchioli also wants to win a stage. "If I escaped, US Postal wouldn't
worry too much, considering the gap between the yellow jersey and me.
In next days I may try. Anyway, I promise I'm not going to plan too much.
I will live hand-to-mouth, trying to do my best every day. Starting just
from tomorrow's time trial on the climb."
Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile) - Cuts on left hip and knee after crash
at kilometre 16
Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r-Prévoyance) - Pain in right Achilles tendon
Oscar Sevilla (Phonak) - Pain in right Achilles tendon
Stefano Zanini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) - Fined 30 CHF for brief drafting
Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) - Fined 50 CHF for unauthorised feed
Cofidis directeur sportif - Fined 200 CHF for O'Grady's unauthorised feed
Jimmy Casper (Cofidis) - Fined 100 CHF for failing to sign in at start
The following riders were fined 50 CHF and penalised 10" and 5 points
for brief drafting behind car.
Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo)
Michele Scarponi (Domina Vacanze)
Matthew Wilson (FDJeux.com)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)